How To Win Bids and Tenders

Wondering how to go about winning bids and tenders? Writing first-class bids isn’t an exact science – but at Win That Bid, we’ve got the expertise to help you secure your dream contracts with ease.

Top Ten Tips for Winning Tenders

1.    Be thorough: answer every question in the bid document – missing out a couple of vital questions can lose you the entire bid.

2.    Know your marketplace (competitors & pricing): spend time researching your competitors and understand their pricing prior to the bid writing process.

3.    Appeal to your reader: offer persuasive, benefit-led responses and think about the customer – what’s important to them? What are they looking for in their supplier?  Don’t simply provide a list of features – if you want to win tenders, take your responses one step further and state the benefits.

4.    Have a model: build a library of standard PQQ and tender responses – save documents such as insurance certificates, policies and yearly accounts in one place that is easily accessible by others in the company.

5.    Outdo yourself: don’t leave your tender until the last minute – make sure that you have dedicated ample time and resources to produce the best possible result. If you can’t submit your best effort for this bid, why you are submitting at all?

6.    Be decisive: make a conscious decision to bid – if you are tendering ‘just because’, this is not the recipe for a winning bid.

7.    Discriminate: can you deliver this tender? Do you want to win this bid? If you win, what will happen to your other contracts? Make sure you’re bidding for business you really want.

8.    Understand the bid requirements – and adhere to them.

9.    Know your audience: read the bid evaluation criteria – what’s most important to the customer?

10.  Be proactive: engage with the customer – being invited to bid is a compliment, and likely to put your submission in a stronger position than a cold response.

 

Need some help winning that dream contract?

Call us today to discuss how we can help you win more business

Creating a successful bid schedule

It’s possible to “wing” a bid if you consider early onset heart palpitations to be an acceptable business expense. If for some reason that isn’t desirable (or you want to win), bid writers should have a properly constructed schedule. You might live to win another bid!

What should the bid schedule account for?

The bid schedule should account for several major elements:

  • when are activities scheduled?
  • who is responsible for carrying them out?
  • which elements of the project are behind schedule or at risk?

It should also provide some flexibility at the end of the project. Submitting a bid is a time consuming and sometimes stressful process – bid portals can be temperamental and each dimension requires checking before the final submission. Time will be required for final proof-reading, formatting, late clarifications and other unexpected issues.

Clear lines of responsibility make it easier for any member of the team to understand where to go for information. At the same time, it also helps to avoid the most frustrating of delays; bid writers inadvertently duplicating each other’s work.

What are your project milestones?

Milestones are significant project events on which to build specific tasks around. Each task and its associated timeline can be tracked by the Project or Bid Manager (who might not be familiar with the specifics of each task). Each milestone is associated with a deliverable which provides evidence that the milestone has been completed.

When choosing your milestones, use the terminology stated in the bid documentation. Milestones should be discussed and signed off at the kick-off meeting by all stakeholders prior to the bid schedule being populated with tasks.

What are your dependencies?

Dependencies are points in the project where a problem with one aspect will affect other areas of the problem. Internal dependencies can be dealt with and identified within the team. External dependencies, out of the bid writer’s control, should be identified when assembling the schedule so that those responsible (a consultancy or accountancy firm, for instance) are aware of their own responsibilities and place in the schedule. Identify ownership of the dependency and place a milestone in the schedule to make it easy to check their status at any time.

How do you know how long things will take?

This is often a matter of experience and process but following these guidelines can help:

  • build in a contingency for unexpected issues;
  • set page/word limits. This will allow you to assess writing, assembling and review periods;
  • agree on style and writing conventions at the earliest opportunity, ideally at the kick-off meeting; and
  • ensure the bid team has a thorough understanding of the project’s win themes.

In particular, the latter two elements can really speed up the drafting process. Bid writers will have a much easier time writing a draft around themes rather than trying to crowbar them into an existing document.

Remember to plan for time consuming events which may have implications for the project even if no-one is actually working on them (such as acquiring permits or letters of support). Projected dates for acquiring or finishing these matters should be placed into the schedule, especially if they create some kind of chokepoint.

Post project, assess the processes you used and the success of the bid schedule. If it all seems like too much hard work give Win that Bid a call: they’ll be create your bid documentation and can manage the entire process.

Technically Speaking

Readers of this blog will have seen many admonitions against boilerplate, jargon and overly complex technical data. However, there will be times – especially in the method statement – that this can’t be avoided.

Some of the usual basic rules apply:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it focused on the client
  • Avoid complicated terminology
  • Avoid long polysyllables in general (if like me you had to look that up, you know why!)
  • Use the client’s terminology

What will the reader focus on?

Informed, technically minded readers will be looking for accuracy and so it is imperative that your data is correct. This is especially important when submitting similar but distinct data across different lots. Be really careful when reformatting complex tables – it could mess up or remove entire columns of data.

More pragmatic thinkers will be looking for simple illustrations of your point and win theme. Bid writers need to strike a balance between impact and legibility on the one hand and specific detail on the other. In all cases make sure your charts are large and legible. Don’t be afraid to put complex charts into separate appendices.

A bid writer’s data needs to be backed up. A reader won’t automatically believe that you’re capable of meeting the terms of a security tender just because you lay out the particulars of how you would do it. Details of your experience and benchmarking will help, and will often be what less informed readers will look for first.

Is this necessary?

Ask whether your technical details are necessary. Often, bid writers will be asked to provide specifics. In that case, provide everything requested – but if they didn’t ask for something, ask yourself how the technical data relates to your message and win theme. If you can take it out without reducing the impact of your message, do so.

Focus on specific benefits to the client

When discussing technical detail, bid writers should focus on the benefits of the client. If your magnificent new threshing machine reduces fuel costs by a third, discuss how that will help the client’s bottom line rather than spending paragraphs on self-congratulation and long, specific explanations of which semi-legal uses of vegetable oil were used to achieve it.

The client will want certainty (especially for security tenders and the like). The buyer will want to know whether your processes work, and especially what will happen if some part of them fails to work. They will want to know that your product will be the solution to their problem, rather than a source of new ones.

Your technical statements are there to prove that. Win that Bid can help you strike the balance between legibility and detail.

Did your Win Theme get bronze, silver or gold?

The client has a problem that it can’t solve itself. So it submits an invitation to tender (ITT) in order to discover the best available solution to that problem. In order to attract the client’s attention, a bid writer needs to have the most compelling solution to that problem, and that should all be encapsulated in the Win Theme which needs to run through the entire bid proposal.

Brainstorm the problem

If you are having trouble coming up with a win theme, consider the client. Is it a public sector tender or for a private company?

  • What does the client want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What are the client’s priorities?
  • What are the client’s long term goals?
  • What worries the client?
  • What skills or products do I have that can answer those questions for the client?

Focus on the client

The client’s problem isn’t going to be solved by a detailed description of your company, its history and achievements, or even the quality of your general services. It needs a specific solution, which your bid writer’s win theme should address. Is there one primary focus – cost, regulatory compliance, innovation?

What can you offer the client that beats your competitors?

Make it the theme of your bid proposal

Once you’ve decided on a win theme, weave it through your document – not just the executive summary. Your bid writers should emphasise how your technical solutions reflect the theme. Highlight how your solution will allow the client to meet the goals you have identified.

If you or your bid writers are having trouble finding a compelling win theme, Win that Bid can help you find the answer!

Style is Substance

When writing for a long tender contract, it’s easy to forget about the basics of presentation and proof-reading. These things determine the impression your proposal will make. A messy, haphazard executive summary will give the impression of a messy, haphazard bid.

Agree on a style guide and make a checklist

In order to look professional, your bid documentation will have to appear consistent through-out. Doing that means agreeing on style conventions:

  • How will these documents look when printed? Will headers and footers be lost? Are the page boundaries appropriate?
  • Are the naming conventions correct? How are technical terms spelt or capitalised? Is the client’s name really spelt like that?
  • Does document layout make it easy to find information quickly and easily? Is the layout clear, or will the reader be lost in a sea of colourful titles and text boxes? Can they refer to a reference quickly?

A late change in the style guide will mean having to revise dozens if not hundreds of pages of text. Remember that you find yourself yawning in a debate about bullet points.

Implementing that style guide as a bid writer will require time and attention. By the time you’ve taken into account table fonts, page alignments and caption conventions, you could easily have a 20 point list. Which makes keeping one vital, as that really is too much to mentally keep track of in a rush.

Leave some time for review!

I know it isn’t always possible, but it really is important to try to leave ample time for editing and review after the bid writing process is completed. That time will be needed to pick up on mistakes, ensure the appendices are correctly referenced (and present!), and make changes.

Once you’ve written a document, you as a bid writer believe in your heart that you wrote what you meant to say. This will almost certainly be different to what you actually said, and if you try to review your own work immediately after writing you’ll miss those mistakes. Anyone unfortunate enough to have been subjected to the first draft of this blog post will understand that.

Or to quote that misbegotten document: “Anyone unfortunately to be subjected to the first draft will be understood.”

To avoid scattering such zen sentiments throughout your bid, you need to give yourself adequate time for review. If you or your bid writers want a second opinion or fresh eyes, Win that Bid’s document co-ordination services can help.

Tender Writing Insights: Managing Online Tender Portals

Recently, some of the Win That Bid team completed a large and complex bid involving the public sector portal ‘Bravo’. There are hundreds of online procurement portals around all with their own language and foibles. However, there are some basic principles that can help you when, with that deadline looming, you find yourself wrestling desperately trying to submit your online tender.

Access

Know your login details and ensure you have the correct level of user access

Having spent weeks or months with your head buried in the tender writing documentation, the time has arrived to upload your submission. And if you’ve forgotten your login details or do not have a sufficient level of access let’s hope you haven’t realised this too late i.e. out of working hours, during busy periods or just prior to the deadline. Online help will only get you so far so if it’s a human being you need to speak to then make sure you do so in advance.

Utilise quieter periods

Early mornings, late nights, weekends and Bank Holidays are ideal

The majority of your competitors will leave their tender writing and submission to the last minute. The risk here is that the portal will time out due to the sheer volume of documents being uploaded. The Win That Bid team who worked on this latest bid submitted documents as they were completed, and in some cases as far as two weeks in advance. They also made use of early mornings, late nights and the Easter holidays.

Upload larger documents first

Larger documents take longer

As larger documents take longer to upload start with them first. This is especially the case with heavy document based tender portals such as Bravo that may not have a limit on the amount of tender documents you are allowed to submit.

Save, save, check, check again and save

Don’t get timed out or caught out

Tender portals will usually time out after 15 minutes of being dormant. Make sure to hit save as soon as you’ve uploaded your latest documents.

Once you have finished uploading go back and check all questions have been answered and all documents have been uploaded. Often you can print the documents list from the portal and more than often you will find there is at least one document missing. Never assume a document has saved.

And if it’s all too much outsource your tender writing, bid and document management to the 2am wrestling experts at Win That Bid.

How to Successfully Manage a Proposal

Each week we will be looking at a different element of how to effectively manage a bid to ensure your proposal submission is prepared in a timely fashion and is as good as it can be. In this first part of our five part series we will be covering the kick-off meeting with your bid team.

1) Proposal Checklist – The Kick-off Meeting.

Kick-off meetings are critical milestones that require careful planning. A good one will inspire your bid team, a poor one can demoralise it.

Prior to the meeting prepare an agenda and comprehensive kick-off package and be sure to invite the right people.

During the meeting encourage everyone to talk through their initial thoughts on the bid.  Read the proposal documentation together then discuss your general approach. Do the decision makers agree that this opportunity if you won it would align with your business strategy? Can you deliver it? Who is likely to be your competition?  When everyone is on the same page, going through this checklist will help make the proposal writing process easier:

  • Identify all of the documents and information you are likely to need when writing your proposal.
  • Allocate different roles to each member of the proposal team and following the meeting distribute the proposal template document including in it who will be responsible for which sections of the document.
  • As your strategy for dealing with the proposal becomes clearer make sure you consider how the bid will fit in with your other work.  Consider the amount of time and the number of personnel that will be devoted to the bid, estimate how much the proposal will cost you and allocate a bid budget. Decide whether you will need to hire consultants or expert bid writers.
  • Create a proposal schedule including deliverables and milestones. Decide the first set of deadlines during this meeting and according to this plan arrange when your second meeting will take place.  Ensure all team members are absolutely clear on when their work needs to be completed.
  • If there are questions about the proposal that can only be answered by the buyer, agree who will be the key contact and how they will manage this and communicate the answers to the team.  Your questions should be answered swiftly and if you have concerns regarding company autonomy you can ask them not to divulge your details especially if the response is likely to be published to all respondents.

Next time on Win That Bid’s blog – ‘Preparing to Write Your Proposal’